Journal — Dye

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 34, Black Locust

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 34, Black Locust

To boil or not to boil? The question isn’t as straightforward as it at first seemed. I started out my natural dye journey by just boiling everything, unaware of the subtleties that temperature can coax from plant matter. Then I realized that boiling might be too heavy-handed and backed off. Now my rule was, never boil the dyepot. But then comes black locust, with two entirely different colors from boiling and not boiling the leaves, and adds complexity to my rules. Thanks a bunch, black locust. I’m trying to reduce the world of natural dyes into easy, memorable, replicable rules,...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 33, Hickory

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 33, Hickory

A pecan is a hickory, but not all hickories are pecans. One more tidbit of information removed from the infinitely large bag of things I don’t know and placed in the pouch of those I do. I always love that feeling. I’ll never even begin to empty out the “don’t know” bag, but the weight of the treasures in my “know” pouch gives me a greedy little thrill.  Hickory gives me colors that are distinct from pecan. Pecan bark gave me golds, hickory pinks.  But first, let’s talk about the leaves.  Boiled leaves gave me browns: But when unboiled, the...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: no 32, Blackberry

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: no 32, Blackberry

When I began trying to find out what dye color each of the plants on my property and in my area could make, if any, I thought it was as simple as that. A plant makes a color. But as we’ve seen, different parts of plants can make wildly different colors. I’m told different seasons can affect the colors those plant parts will produce. And how the dyer handles the dye material affects the outcome too. I’m starting to think that each of these plants would require the patience and respect of a lengthy apprenticeship to fully utilize and appreciate. ...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 31, Honey Locust

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 31, Honey Locust

There are some plants I put in my dyepot hoping they make great dye. I have a lot of them or they’re favorites. Dog fennel I have in abundance. Sweetgum also. Others I put in the dyepot hoping they won’t amount to anything. Honey locust is one of these. Here’s why: I read that those thorns have been used for all kinds of things: pins, nails, needles, wool carding. All poky, stabby kinds of things. I was hoping for dyer’s beige or a boring brown with honey locust so I could move on from these thorns.  The leaves gave me...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 30, Mimosa

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 30, Mimosa

Aspiring crazy plant persons, I offer you this advice: find yourself a partner who, when you plunge into the woods behind the restaurant with your clippers clutched to your chest on a date, just laughs. Even better would be someone who goes woods-plunging with you, but let’s not wish for the moon. There are those who would be embarrassed or discouraging. Laughing is a good outcome. The mimosa tree, with its pretty pink flowers and sensitive leaves, is wickedly invasive in North America. So it seemed that no one would begrudge me the clipping I took from an overgrown specimen...

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